Formartine no easy touch for Falkirk

Daniel Park scores Formartine's goal in the friendly against Falkirk at North Lodge Park.
Daniel Park scores Formartine's goal in the friendly against Falkirk at North Lodge Park.

This pre-season friendly showed Formartine in the best possible light as the doughty Highland League outfit gave every bit as good as they got in a one-all draw against the high–flying First Division full timers.

The expected gulf in class between the two was seldom apparent and despite the fact that the central belters could and did knock the ball about with a certain panache, the North Lodge lads produced their own brand of direct, hard -running, attacking football that was almost, but not quite enough to cause a major upset.

The game started at a brisk pace as the home side pushed for an early opener and it was only a very tight offside call that denied them the glory of a stunning second minute strike.

The ball was worked down the right by the combined efforts of Wilson, Munro and Park before it was clipped into the path of pacy Mike Ewen who knocked the ball well beyond keeper McGovern’s reach.

Although this was not a legitimate goal, it still served to raise the belief that Formartine had the capacity to get in behind the visitors’ defence.

This opening salvo was no flash in the pan and although Falkirk settled quickly thereafter into their studied pass and move rhythm. Formartine, with Tommy Wilson pulling the strings in midfield, “trialist” Craig McKeown organising things superbly at the back and the predatory Dan Park running menacingly at defenders, looked in their own way, every bit as effective a unit as did their visitors.

With a host of new signings over the close season, Formartine look to have better shape overall and much more bite about them than last season.

The first direct confirmation of this came in the 17th minute when a move orchestrated initially deep in midfield by clever through ball by Tommy Wilson to Soane who fed Park as he thundered through the middle, shook off Duffie to get one on one with the advancing keeper.

With consummate skill and a slight dash of the arrogance that distinguishes the best of strikers, he showed the keeper just enough of the ball to make him commit before slickly dragging it a yard left and slipping it cooly into the net.

By the half hour mark Falkirk were clearly shading the possession statistics but they were also very capably contained by a home back four of young Ewen Anderson who played with assurance and reliability of a veteran, captain Stewart Smith, “Biscuits” McVittie and the Colossus that is Craig McKeown.

Falkirk were working the ball well enough but struggling to find a way to get past this tightly organised and very secure- looking rearguard and with Formartine’s pace up front they looked vulnerable to several of the quick-fire breakaways that the North Lodge boys mounted.

It was clear that Falkirk wanted to win this one and they brought on five of their six substitutes after the interval.

Formartine remained in the driving seat and contented themselves by swapping keeper Kirean McCaffrey for young Michael McKinnon.

Quick thinking by Smith in the 48th minute set Munro free down the inside right channel. The run was good but the finish was weak as he managed only to skew the ball high and wide of the keeper’s left upright.

Falkirk, with their significantly changed line up opted for a rather more direct approach in this second period and the game developed a slightly more end to end pattern.

Young keeper McKinnon did well to push a fizzing drive by Connor McGrandles round the corner in the fifty seventh minute and centre back Smith was forcefully dispossessed by McKeown as he tried to force the ball home from a corner on the right.

This was Falkirks best spell of the game but it took until the 64th minute for them to restore a modicum of pride.

Their equaliser was a peach of goal which came from a thunder bolt of a shot taken on the volley twenty five yards out by Steven Brisbane.

If there was any expectation that having at last equalised, Falkirk would then kick on to win the game this new look Formartine side had completely different ideas and maintaining both composure and shape plugged away with their hard running game and continued to make as many demands on the Falkirk defence as they had previously.

As both sides moved into a more experimental phase with frequent substitutions the game lost just a little of its lustre.

A draw against a side of this calibre, with a newly reconstituted team is a considerable achievement and these Falkirk players under the eyes of Steven Pressley and Alex Smith had a point to prove.

Formartine were too good to let them do so. Well done them!

McCaffrey, Anderson, Smith, McVittie, McKeown, Wilson, Munro, Soane, Park, Ewen, Dingwall.

Subs: Robertson,McKibben, Mathers, Davidson, Cairns, Forbes,McKinnon.

Falkirk: McGovern, Rowan, Dick, Duffie, Smith, Fulton, Comrie, Faulds, Trialist,Haworth, Brisbane.

Subs: McGeever, Kingsley, Fulton,McGrandles, Bowman, Trialist, White.